You love your guinea pigs and can’t imagine life without them. That’s understandable. Guinea pigs are cute and full of personality! So as an owner it’s reasonable to wonder: Do guinea pigs die easily?
Guinea pigs do not die easily. In fact, they are quite resilient under certain circumstances. They can live up to 8 years if you provide them with food, water, proper care, and a living environment that is right for them.
As owners, there are some situations that we can’t control. For example, we don’t always know if a new piggie has an unknown medical condition. But, we can do our best to avoid the mistakes that make them die more easily! In this post, we’ll cover the mistakes you must avoid to keep your guinea pigs safe and happy. We’ll also cover how people might end up with a guinea pig that’s likelier to die.
If you want to decrease the chances that your guinea pig will die, avoid these common mistakes:
1. Get A Piggie With A Shady History
Many owners don’t realize how important it is to know the background of their guinea pigs. Your guinea pigs chance of dying connect to her history – yes, really!
Let me explain:
When you get a new guinea pig, the care she gets before you take her home matters. It can impact how healthy and how long she lives. Be sure to find someone who can help you find a healthy guinea pig from an experienced breeder, animal shelter or rescue group.
That way, when you adopt him, he is more likely to be in good health and live longer.
If you buy a guinea pig from a breeder, you still need to be careful. Not all breeders are equal and some don’t know how to breed healthy guinea pigs. So, some guinea pigs are born with (hidden) birth defects. Don’t overlook the dangers of bad breeding. The most common side effects are an increased likelihood of health problems or the death of your new guinea pig.
So, how do you know a guinea pig is healthy?
Look for the following signs:
- bright eyes and nose
- clean, healthy coat (no patches of hair missing)
- no discharge from the nose or eyes
- alert and responsive
- no coughing, sneezing, or raspy breathing
- normal activity level (not sluggish)
- droppings not wet and runny
It’s recommended that you avoid purchasing a guinea pig from pet store. Many pet stores sell wrongly sexed guinea pigs or pregnant ones to unwitting pet parents.
They also sell sick guinea pigs, like those with respiratory infections. Many owners don’t realize that their piggies are sick until days later (or until the poor piggie dies).
Before adopting or buying, you need to know about the history of the guinea pig and who he comes from. This will help you get a healthy guinea pig – one that isn’t likely to die easily.
2. Don’t Perform Routine Health Checks
Wanna help your guinea pig live longer? Make sure you do routine health checks. Guinea pigs can be prone to many diseases, some of which are common.
If you catch them early enough, it’s possible to help your guinea pig live a longer, healthier life.
Guinea pigs are very good at hiding sicknesses. As prey animals, they hide illnesses, so that predators don’t think they’re an easy meal. Domesticated guinea pigs haven’t lost that instinct. As a pet parent, you have to be better at sniffing out health problems in your guinea pig than they are at hiding them.
Some owners perform health checks on their guinea pigs weekly. Others do them daily – depending on the health of their piggies.
A few good things to review in a health check include:
- weigh your guinea pigs
- check their nails (for length and clipping)
- check their teeth to make sure none are broken or too long
- feel over the body for lumps and bumps
- inspect skin and hair for signs of problems with fungus (like ringworm) or parasites (like mites or lice)
- look into eyes to see if there’s any debris in them
- check their nose for any discharge or sounds of noisy breathing
Be sure to check out your guinea pigs carefully. That way, you can find out if there’s a problem before it gets too serious! And take appropriate action.
Weighing your guinea pig is probably the most important part of the health check. Often, the only clue you get that something might be wrong with your little friend. Don’t be afraid to seek out medical care for your piggies.
3. Choose The Wrong Spot For The Cage
Your guinea pigs’ cage is a key factor in their happiness and safety. Choose the wrong spot for it, though, and your pet might not live a very long life!
When choosing a spot for your guinea pigs’ cage, there’s a lot to consider. Let’s consider the following:
- If you keep your guinea pig near a window or an open doorway, drafts might make your guinea pig sick.
- Direct sunlight can make your guinea pig overheat (or die) from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Keep your guinea pigs away from all heat sources (e.g. fireplaces, ovens) – they’re pretty sensitive to heat as it is. The ideal temperature range is 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, so shoot for that whenever possible
- Loud, blaring noises can make your guinea pig very stressed out. You should choose a spot for the cage away from loud, sudden noises, such as televisions and radios. Tons of stress can make your piggies stop eating and that could cause them to get sick or even die.
- People often have multiple types of pets, but always make sure to protect your guinea pigs from other animals. Keep guinea pigs safe from predators. If you have a cat or dog, make sure that you keep them separated.
To keep your guinea pigs alive and happy, make sure you choose the right place for their cage.
When you choose where your guinea pig will live, make sure that it is in a place that has no drafts and no high or low temperatures. Also, do not put the guinea pigs near sudden loud noises – they’re scared of loud sounds and it’s not good for their health.
4. Try To Breed Them
Don’t – just don’t – try to breed your guinea pigs.
It’s a great way to fast-track any female guinea pig you have into an early grave.
(Spoiler alert: Any time your piggie breeds, you put her life at risk. I wish I was being melodramatic, but I’m not.)
Some guinea pig deliveries go flawlessly, but…
Don’t let that fool you. Any time your female guinea pig is pregnant, then it’s possible that she’ll die.
If a female guinea pig, more than 8 months old, becomes pregnant, she may experience dystocia. This is a condition where the female’s pubic bones are unable to spread to deliver her babies – her body is too old. When this happens, one option is a caesarian section for the pig. Many do not survive with their pups.
Here’s a quick list of the dangers that come with breeding your female guinea pigs:
- sows are carrying A LOT of extra weight when they’re pregnant. Their babies are huge (for a guinea pig’s size) and can be tough to pass.
- her weigh increases (sometimes doubles), which can be hard on her heart and other organs
- she could get a number of pregnancy-related illnesses like: hypocalcemia (low calcium levels), a prolapsed uterus (uterus coming out of its place), or pregnancy toxemia (a dangerous build-up of toxins in the blood)
Certain types of guinea pigs aren’t supposed to mate. Do you know which types those are? If they do breed, some have a high risk of giving birth to a deformed baby. These babies are called lethals. Sadly, they’re often born blind, deaf, or with deformed teeth. They can have problems with their internal organs, too. These babies usually don’t live long.
And yes, these things can cause the unnecessary death of your little friend.
Breeding your sow is a terrible idea; she could die.
Those risks and consequences that come with pregnancy? They’re just not worth it for your little friend. For the health and well-being of your guinea pigs, do not breed them.
5. Feed Them The Wrong Foods
Since it feels so good to spoil our little fur babies, it’s surprisingly easy for loving pet parents to feed their guinea pigs into an early grave.
You can easily feed your guinea pig into being fat if you don’t feed them the right types (and amounts of food). A poor diet and obesity has negative consequences for your piggies:
- it increases their risk of diseases, like bumblefoot and diabetes.
- it may lead to backpain (from carrying all that extra weight)
- an inability to properly groom herself (e.g. decreased quality of life)
- a lack of motivation to exercise (which makes the problem worse!)
There’s a lot of information out there about what guinea pigs can and cannot eat. But, it’s not always easy to know where the facts end and the myths begin.
So, what should you feed them?
- Hay. The main diet for your guinea pigs should be hay – give them an unlimited amount. They’re designed to eat it and they need to eat it daily; so never deprive them of that!
- Produce. No more than 1 cup a day. Only fresh vegetables – a small amount of fruit in moderation. Avoid anything that is canned or cooked with sugar in it.
- Vitamin C-enriched pellets. About 1/8 of a cup each day. Make sure that the pellets are vitamin-enriched and not just a regular pellet. Guinea pigs can get scurvy from a Vitman C Deficiency.
- Water. Unlimited access to water in their cage at all times. A bowl (or bottle) of clean water should be provided for them every day, morning and evening.
Remember, these little guys won’t live very long if you don’t give them the right type foods.
But, overfeeding the right food to your piggies is just as dangerous as feeding the wrong foods. Make sure you feed your little friends the right portions of foods.
So don’t let them live to eat! Let them eat to live!
6. Leave Them Alone For Days At A Time
Any pet parent who leaves their guinea pigs alone for more than a day or two is taking a big risk.
It is painfully easy for unattended guinea pigs to die from preventable causes. If guinea pigs are behind when their humans head out for a long period of time, then they’re in the danger zone.
Some people might think:
I left my piggies with plenty of food and water.
I’ll be back before they know it.
They won’t even notice that I’m gone.
The piggies might run out of food or water while the pet parent is away, and die.
If they get sick from any infection then no one will be there to help them–they’ll suffer alone and without help. This isn’t what anyone wants for their beloved pets.
If you’re going to be away for more than a day or two, then find someone–a friend, family member, pet sitter or boarding facility-to check on your guinea pig.
Why take the chance ?
7. Forgo Habitat Maintenance
Guinea pigs can die (and die easily) from living in the conditions of a dirty cage.
Pets will spend longer and healthier lives in a habitat that’s clean.
All pet parents need to routinely spot clean and deep clean their guinea pigs’ enclosure.
- Spot clean: Pick (or vacuum) up drawings, wash, rinse, and refill water bowls, add extra hay to the cage .
- Deep clean: This should be done at least once a week. Remove bedding from the cage and scrub it out. Clean any toys that may have been soiled with urine or feces, wash all surfaces in hot water (including feeding dishes). Replace dirty bedding with fresh.
Using untreated pine shavings is risky for your guinea pigs. They may get an upper respiratory infection. If you choose pine bedding, make sure that it’s kiln-dried – that’s one of many safe bedding options for guinea pigs.
If guinea pigs don’t live in a clean environment , then they get sick and die.
Let’s look at some consequences of a dirty cage:
- Pododermatitis (a.k.a. “Bumblefoot): Guinea pigs are especially prone to pododermatitis, or “bumblefoot,” which is bacterial infection on the feet caused by dirty cages and bedding .
- Respiratory Diseases: Living in a dirty cage without clean bedding or fresh water makes guinea pigs susceptible to upper respiratory infections (like pneumonia). Guinea pigs have sensitive noses. Overtime, a build up for ammonia from dirty bedding is disastrous for their respiratory system.
- Depression and Frustration: In case you didn’t know, guinea pigs can (and do) get depressed and frustrated. A loss of appetite is a symptom. They show it through behavior (like biting on cage bars or behaving aggressively) or through other negative changes in the way they act. A dirty cage can lead to these symptoms because it makes a guinea pig feel unsafe and uncomfortable.
- Urinary Tract Infection: Sure, it’s a little gross to think about what guinea pigs are sitting around in. And if they’re lounging in old urine-soaked bedding then you could be putting your pet at risk for painful urinary tract infections!
- Parasites (and Other Uninvited Guests): Because of the damp conditions in a filthy cage, mold and mildew may also start to grow. And there are many different types of bacteria and parasites that can come with the mold, which could make your guinea pig sick – and even kill your little friends!
Keep a clean and tidy cage to cut your worries about your guinea pig’s health (and possibility of dying) in half. It’s the best way to keep your pets healthy and happy!
8. Forget To Piggie-Proof Your Home
All guinea pigs need daily exercise outside of their cage – which needs to have lots of space.
But, you can’t just let them roam wild and free…because there’s a big chance that they’ll die if you do.
Never let your guinea pigs free-roam outside. Guinea pigs require enclosed areas to stop them from escaping or getting into trouble. (And it is so easy for them to escape) Many owners who’ve made this mistake never find their guinea pigs again. Don’t let that be you.
There are certain dangers in your home that could lead to injury or death.
Before you let your guinea pig explore your home, piggie-proof it by doing the following:
- Remove houseplants – many of them are poisonous
- Keep electrical wires and cords out of reach (yes, that’s includes cute, little string lights)
- Close cabinet drawers and doors, and block narrow cracks and crevices that your piggies could squeeze into
- Put away cleaning supplies and other toxic materials
- Be mindful of exposed nails (and other sharp objects)
- Remove anything that you don’t want your piggies to chew on. Their teeth never stop growing and they will chew on anything in their path.
- Monitor your guinea pigs at all times and keep them in their cage when you’re not able to watch them carefully
In order to protect our guinea pigs’ health, we must pay close attention to hazards in our home. When you take the time to piggie-proof your house, it’s a safe haven for them – that will keep them alive and happy for years to come.
Two sets of eyes are better than one. After you’ve piggie proofed your home, ask a friend or family member to rate the job that you did. Sometimes , we can’t see what’s dangerous to our guinea pigs or we miss something. More than one set of eyes will help you see what may be overlooked and make sure that your pet is safe indoors. You definitely don’t want your little friends to die because of something you missed.
9. Only Have One Guinea Pig
Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the damage loneliness can do to a guinea pig.
On the whole, single guinea pigs are usually more anxious than those in compatible pairs.
Guinea pigs are social, herd animals and crave the company of other piggies – with a few extraordinary exceptions.
Yes, it’s a thing.
Guinea pigs have died from loneliness and depression.
The poor, little piggies just stop eating. When that happens, guinea pigs can develop digestive issues like gut stasis (a.k.a. ileus).
It’s a condition when where the digestive system stops working properly. If their gut stops moving, then food can’t be processed through their system and your little friend is likely to die.
The solution? Find your piggie a friend!
Get them another (compatible) guinea pig and they’ll be happier, healthier, and more likely to live longer. An experienced rescue can help you with this!
Just make sure the new addition is of the same sex. Be a 100% certain (See Mistake #1). Because you definitely don’t want them to reproduce (See Mistake #4).
If you know what to look for, it’s easy to identify depression in your guinea pig. The signs are like human depression. You’ll notice that they stop eating, grooming themselves and become less active. Don’t let it get to the point where they die. Take action – sooner rather than later.
10. Quarantine New Piggies
This is probably one of the most preventable mistakes that owners make – which can cause their guinea pigs to die easily.
When you get a new guinea pig by making sure you quarantine the new animal before it goes in to the existing cage. This is for the health and safety of your existing pet.
Some owners aren’t aware that they need to quarantine the new pig. For new guinea pigs, quarantine means that they’re alone – with no other animals in the same room.
The quarantine should last two to three weeks.
Why two to three weeks?
This gives any disease or parasite symptoms time to show themselves.
If a disease or parasite does show up, this gives the new guinea pig time to recover.
It also provides time for any complications to show their heads before introduce your new guinea pigs into your existing herd of pigs.
Otherwise, you risk losing your new guinea pig and your old guinea pigs, too.
Things To Remember About Guinea Pigs Dying Easily
Will your guinea pig eventually die?
Yes, of course.
But, not soon.
And not if you make the effort to avoid certain preventable mistakes:
- Make sure you know your guinea pig’s history.
- Quarantine new guinea pigs.
- Don’t breed your guinea pigs
- Perform health checks
- Provide your guinea pigs with what they need to stay healthy.
- Keep them safe from predators and hazards in your home.
Yes, I know. It seems like a lot. But, your guinea pig’s care becomes a habit once you’re used to it.
And when you put in the effort to avoid these mistakes, your guinea pig will have a longer life.
What’s more, it is easier and less stressful for you too! You’ll know that you are doing everything possible to make sure he or she stays happy and healthy.
As the owner, you control how easily your guinea pig dies – how long she’ll live.
So, step up to the plate, and do what you can to keep her alive.